anne_mikolay_2012_120According to MetLife, the proportion of adult children providing personal care and/or financial assistance to a parent has more than tripled over the past fifteen years. Presently, nearly ten million adult children care for elderly parents. Baby boomers worry about their aging parents’ health, financial situation, and safety. Will senior citizen relatives on fixed incomes be able to pay their rent? If they fall at home, will they be able to get help swiftly? Are they living in safe, healthy surroundings? Most importantly, are they happy? Baby boomers with relatives residing in New Monmouth’s Alice V. Tomaso Plaza senior housing complex do not have worries quite as pressing.

Tomaso Plaza, located at 2 Oak Dale Drive, is a 152 unit public housing complex where residents age 62 or older pay a portion of the rent based upon income; federal money pays the rest. Members of my family have lived in Tomaso Plaza for well over twenty years; from personal experience, I can tell you they are safe, financially secure, and content.

The technical reason for their contentment can be found in Psychology 101 and noted developmental psychologist Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Simply put, Maslow identified five fundamental human needs for happiness. At the bottom of his list are basic physiological needs, followed by safety, love and belonging, and esteem. The most important need, self-actualization, tops the pyramid.

Tomaso Plaza addresses each human need outlined by Maslow.

Tomaso Plaza senior housing complex ensures the physiological needs of its residents are met. It provides air conditioners, appliances, and maintenance service to keep kitchens and bathrooms operating properly. Tomaso’s staff understands and takes great strides to achieve a certain quality of life for residents. Tomaso’s interior is clean and pleasant. SCAT buses transport residents to local supermarkets and department stores, nurses regularly visit for wellness checks, and prayer services are held. Tomaso Plaza is an attractive, clean, and most importantly, safe building. Each apartment is equipped with emergency call service; the building has security cameras throughout and an intercom in the lobby.

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You might think Maslow’s higher fundamental needs (love and belonging, esteem, and the lofty self-actualization) would be difficult for Tomaso management to pull off. Not so. Under the skill and care of Middletown Housing Authority executive director, Joseph Billy, Tomaso staff consistently nurtures a healthy social environment. Mr. Billy recognizes a sense of love and belonging is derived from friends and arranges programs enabling residents to socialize if they desire. There are concerts, craft fairs, coffee meetings, barbecues, Friday night card games, Halloween and holiday parties, all of which make the residents feel good about themselves. Tomaso Plaza seniors are free to express themselves creatively. One resident volunteered to plant flowers and maintain garden beds; because of her, spring blooms beautifully at Tomaso. At Christmas, residents gather together to decorate; each floor in the building bursts with seasonal color. The fourth floor in particular consistently rivals any holiday exhibit in Macy’s window.

Abraham Maslow said, “What a man can be, he must be,” a phrase that summarizes a personal need for self-actualization. Everyone’s needs for self-fulfillment are different, of course, but Tomaso Plaza allows each resident to live an individual life of dignity and respect, and in so doing, executive director Joseph Billy grants residents (and their families) priceless peace of mind. 

A lot of psychological gobbledygook, you say? Perhaps. Text book aside, all I know is what I see. I see my relatives living happily, safely, in Tomaso Plaza. I see the zest in my mother-in-law’s attitude when she heads to the community room for her weekly card game, and the smile on her face when she wins the Christmas door decorating contest. I see the solid friendships my father has made in the building.  During the recent Swimming River water main break, I did not have to worry that my family at Tomaso did not have water; it was provided. When my Dad needed a new refrigerator, it was provided. When the building needed new windows, it was provided. When my mother-in-law needed her apartment painted, the service was provided. Do I still worry about my elderly relatives? Of course, I do. But thanks to Tomaso Plaza, I don’t worry about their fundamental needs, their financial situation, or safety.

Tomaso Plaza is a very good place to be.

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Anne Mikolay

Anne M. Mikolay joined The Atlantic Highlands Herald as a columnist in 2008. Prior to penning “The Armchair Critic,” Anne wrote feature articles for The Monmouth Journal. Her work has appeared in national...